Parsing the difference between HTML, XHTML and HTML5

HTML has gone through many permutations and evolutions.

HTML has gone through many permutations and evolutions.

Astoria’s support for the DITA Open Toolkit allows users to transform their DITA-style XML content into various permutations of HTML, the cornerstone technology for creating web pages known formally as HyperText Markup Language. While HTML has gone through many permutations and evolutions, the three main variations for web markup – HTML, XHTML and HTML5 – are all currently in use by developers. The following is a quick summary of the history and distinctions that give each language its own character and capabilities.

There are the three related languages for web markup – HTML, XHTML and HTML5.

The first internet markup language, HTML is the basis for every subsequent web design language. HTML’s enduring utility is its simplicity: a small set of elements to describe the structure and content of a web page. Layout and appearance rely on the more advanced capabilities of JavaScript, CSS or Flash to make a site more interactive. However, this can often lead to frustration for designers, since these more dynamic elements are difficult to construct natively in HTML.

The Extensible Hypertext Markup Language, XHTML, began as a reformulation of HTML 4.01 using XML 1.0.  XHTML was designed to allow for greater cross-browser compatibility and the construction of more dynamic, detailed sites. As XHTML evolved, it lost most of its compatibility with HTML 4.01.  Today, XHTML is relegated to specialized projects where HTML output is not desired.

As the latest permutation of HTML, HTML5 is a combination of three families of code: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It is significantly more versatile than previous HTML iterations, and it enjoys much more support than XHTML. Its cross-platform capabilities and native integration of what were once third-party plugin features (e.g., drawing, video playback, and drag-and-drop effects, etc.) make it a favorite of web designers.

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